School and child-care contact tracing

 

What does it mean to have been identified as a high risk contact?

Ottawa Public Health will advise you if you are a high-risk contact. As required by public health law in Ontario, high-risk contacts must self-isolate for 14 days (Health Promotion and Protection Act). In most cases OPH will recommend you (and/or your members of your household) to get tested 5 days after you last came into contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19. Most people who become sick with COVID-19, show signs and symptoms approximately after 5 days of being exposed to someone with COVID-19. Testing is available by appointment ONLY at all testing sites. Please visit the OPH website more information on Testing.

People who live in your home (i.e. siblings, parents) with the person who is considered a high-risk contact do not need to self-isolate or to get tested. These people are “contacts of contacts” and are only required to self-isolate if someone in your family tests positive for COVID-19, has symptoms of COVID-19, or if they themselves were exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. If anyone in your household is or becomes symptomatic, then all household members need to isolate.

 Frequently asked questions

What is considered a high-risk contact?

In order to quickly contact residents, Ottawa Public Health (OPH) uses automated messaging to reach out to high-risk contacts of COVID-19. Being a high-risk contact means that you (or a member of your household) were in contact with someone with COVID-19 for longer than 15 minutes and/or closer than 2 metre distance, in the last 2 weeks.

Ottawa Public Health identifies high risk “close contacts” through a detailed review of factors such as the individual’s symptoms, where they have been, and with whom they have interacted. Interactions where people briefly come within 2 metres (6 feet) of each other, such as walking by someone in a hallway or on the sidewalk, are generally not considered “close contacts”.

What does this mean for me and my family?

Ottawa Public Health will advise you if you are a high-risk contact. As required by public health law in Ontario, high-risk contacts must self-isolate for 14 days (Health Promotion and Protection Act). In most cases OPH will recommend you (and/or your members of your household) to get tested 5 days after you last came into contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19. Most people who become sick with COVID-19, show signs and symptoms approximately after 5 days of being exposed to someone with COVID-19.

People who live in your home (i.e. siblings, parents) with the person who is considered a high-risk contact do not need to self-isolate or to get tested. These people are “contacts of contacts” and are only required to self-isolate if someone in your family tests positive for COVID-19 or if they themselves were exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.

What if my test is negative?

If you were identified as a high-risk contact and your test is negative, you still need to remain in isolation for 14 days. It can take up to 14 days after being exposed to someone with COVID-19 for you to start showing signs and symptoms of COVID-19 and to test positive. Testing should take place no earlier than 5 days after initial close contact with a confirmed case. The timing of testing is important as a person may be incubating (the time it takes for the disease to develop) and COVID-19 may not show on the test result if tested too early.

Even if after waiting 5 days to be tested the result is negative, it remains important to self-isolate and monitor for symptoms for 14 days from exposure to the confirmed case. You will be helping to protect others because COVID-19 can develop up to 14 days after exposure even if you receive a negative test result.

How do you determine that someone is a high-risk contact?

Ottawa Public Health will identify all those who may be considered high-risk close contacts based on information provided by the individual who tested positive. As well, information is received from collaboration with the setting where the exposure took place, such as schools, day cares or workplaces.

Many factors must be considered when determining close contacts, including but not limited to: What were the shared spaces accessed by the individual(s) who has tested positive for COVID-19? Where they part of the same cohort as the individual who tested positive for COVID-19? (A cohort is a small sub-grouping of children that stay together and don’t interact with other cohorts in order to limit the risk of spread of the virus), Was Personal Protective Equipment used (such as masks/face shields by school employees, and masks worn by other individuals.

Does getting a message mean that the school or day care is in an outbreak?

No. An investigation will be done by Ottawa Public Health to determine who is affected.

The ability for the school or day care to remain open will be affected by how widespread transmission is throughout groups of individuals. This decision will be made in conversation between OPH and each setting based on the investigation.

Why does Ottawa Public Health sometimes use an automated message?

Ottawa Public Health uses automated messages when there are a high number of individuals to reach. It allows Ottawa Public Health to reach more people quickly, which helps people to isolate as soon as possible. This in turn reduces potential COVID-19 transmission in the community.

What does the first automated message sound like?

The automated message will sound like this:

This is an urgent message from Ottawa Public Health.

A child in your household who attends (XX) school has been identified as a high-risk contact of COVID-19.

Please do NOT send your child to school. Your child needs to isolate at home until  [XX date], unless advised otherwise by OPH.

If you have more than one child at ( XX) school, call your school to confirm which child needs to stay home. 

People who live in your home with the child who is considered a high-risk contact do not need to self-isolate or to get tested.

If your child has symptoms of COVID 19, have them tested. Your child should be tested five days after they last attended school, even if they don’t have symptoms. 

When you get your child tested, please present the following testing number at a COVID-19 Assessment Centre in Ottawa. Please have a pen ready to write this number down.

Your testing number is: (XXX)

Again, that number is: (XXX)

Why would I continue to get automated messages for 14 days?

Ottawa Public Health uses technology to rapidly follow-up with all high-risk contacts to ensure that they are following public health guidance and staying in isolation. You will continue to receive this automated message for the duration of your or your family member’s isolation period. Please listen to the message very carefully.

Where do I call if I want to speak with a nurse?

If you have questions that have not been answered above or in our frequently asked questions page and you would like to speak with a public health nurse, please call 613-580-6744 and follow the prompts to the COVID-19 phone line. Our phone line is open Monday to Friday from 7:30am to 7:30pm, and on weekends from 9am to 4pm.

 

Contact Us